welcome. why "weak on sanctification"?

this accusation is often made about lutheran christians. because we focus so strongly on god's justifying grace in christ, and our continual need, as "sinner-saints," to receive god's gifts of grace through word and sacrament, people say we are "weak on sanctification." i prefer to say we are strong on jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. i would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything i might do.

the weekly discussion

each week I set forth a topic to promote discourse about some aspect of Christianity, the church, or the spiritual life. i would love to hear your perspective and thoughts on each week's subject. these discussions are usually posted on mondays, so if you missed this week's post and would like to catch up on the conversation, just scroll down and join us.

October 3, 2009

the lord's day—october 4, 2009

18th sunday after pentecost

today's lectionary readings
genesis 2:18-24
psalm 8
hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
mark 10:2-16

today's bach cantatas
bwv 114, "ah, dear christians, be consoled"
bwv 148, "give unto the lord the glory due his name"
bwv 47, "whoever exalts himself will be humbled"

today's van gogh
the church at auvers, 1890

today's good news

despite the text from mark for this sunday, today's message won't be about divorce.

actually, if you read the text closely, you can see that the pharisees who came to jesus that day and questioned him didn't really want to hear about that subject either. the gospel says they were testing him, which means this was all about theological one-upmanship. people like the pharisees loved to take controversial subjects and debate them, just so that they could prove they were right and you were wrong. it wasn't like they were really concerned about the actual human suffering of husbands and wives and children who had been through divorce. it wasn't like they were looking for answers so that they could help real people, like their neighbors, who were struggling in their marriages. nah, this was culture war stuff. they just wanted to win an argument, maybe get jesus in trouble with the media. happens a lot, even today.

but jesus wouldn't have it. i love what he did here—he just looked them in the eye and said, "why are you asking me about this? why don't you just go back to the beginning; see what god wants?" i think that's a great idea, don't you? rather than wrangling about all the ins and outs of what's permitted and not permitted now that the situation has gotten out of hand, why don't we just go back and take a look at what god intended in the first place? let's go back to the beginning.

in a couple of months, gail and i will have been married 31 years. we've known each other for 34. we met in bible college, on a saturday morning when a roommate dragged me out of bed to go try out for a singing group in the music building. there was this cute little pig-tailed girl everyone called "gig" playing the piano. i immediately found her interesting. when i passed the audition and started being around her more often, my interest grew.

we took walks, served side by side in music ministry, studied together, laid in the grass, looked up at the stars, and talked long into the nights. we fell in love over the course of those years in college. we got to know each other's families, we sensed a common calling, we decided to get married. i guess we did it all in a pretty old-fashioned way, considering it was the 1970's, when the talk was about free love and a sexual revolution. we fought off temptation and waited to have sex until we married. we asked permission and the blessing of our parents to wed. we planned our wedding in a church at christmas time, during which we called on jesus to be lord and savior of our marriage. we asked our families and friends to support us as we set off to build a life and family.

it was all pretty simple to us back then—we just thought that's what the bible said we should do. you know, like god made the first man and then the first woman, each in his image and likeness, each perfectly complementing the other. then he brought them together and gave each to the other as his own wonderful gift, and they were no longer alone. naked before one another and not ashamed, they became one, and life in the world began.

now, i am fully aware that some of you may never marry. some of you young people have seen a lot of crazy stuff when it comes to this subject, and you have no idea what you even think about marriage. some of you have been married and it didn't work. some of you are in marriages that are, frankly, disasters, and you have no idea what to do about it. today, please let me say to you that there is all kinds of good news for you in jesus—for any of us—no matter how bad and broken your love life is, no matter how dysfunctional your family has become, no matter how many times you have fallen in sexual sin, no matter what has happened to you in the realm of relationships or marriage. jesus welcomes you today with open arms and offers you grace, forgiveness, healing, and peace.

please hear that, and believe it. but, after hearing that, i want to ask us all to do something together with our imaginations. for a moment today, can we block all of that bad, painful stuff out of our minds? can we set the mess we've made out of love and marriage and family off to the side, just for a short time? and then can we, instead, take a walk back to the beginning, back to the garden, back to when everything was new and fresh? back to when god was there, and we were there, and there was a man and there was a woman, and they had everything they needed, and they were naked and not ashamed? back to when you can hear the man say, "finally! bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! name her woman for she was made from man. therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. they become one flesh" (gen 2.24, the message).

stay there for a bit. mull that over. get the picture. hear the music.

after awhile, if you want to join the pharisees, you can debate about things like divorce all you want.

but i think i might just want to stay where jesus suggested we go. back to the beginning.

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